MTV was the home of rebellious television in the ‘90s. Now, they don’t even show music videos anymore, but it’s important to remember how controversial they were at one time. In the ‘90s, MTV ushered in original television like its reality series The Real World, dealing with racial and LGBTQ+ issues, including AIDS. The animated Beavis and Butt-Head was a ’90s lightning rod. It joined sketch comedy shows like The State and adult animation like Aeon Flux.
Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike Judge thinks the popularity of his and other shows were a reaction to the sitcoms of the ‘80s. Judge was a guest on the Basic podcast on June 22 to talk about the creation of Beavis and Butt-Head. Classic episodes of the show are now available to stream on Paramount+. So is the new movie, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe.
‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ creator Mike Judge contributed to the rebellion against the ‘80s
Beavis and Butt-Head were the ultimate ‘90s teenagers. Left unsupervised, they sat around watching music videos all day. When they left the house they wreaked havoc wherever they went. Judge said the sitcoms of the ‘80s presented such a sanitized version of kids and families that television was bound to rebel.
“I think a lot of it might’ve been a reaction to what TV was in the ‘80s,” Judge said on Basic. “The way sitcoms had become, The Cosby Show was very much like everybody’s going to Ivy League Schools. Everybody’s just great and perfect and wonderful. TV had gotten very much like that.”
‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ wasn’t the only antihero comedy on TV in the ‘90s
Judge didn’t take credit for leading this rebellion. By the time he drew Beavis and Butt-Head in 1992, network television was already focusing on dysfunctional families. The Fox network, newly launched in the ‘80s, was patient zero.
“And then something like Married with Children, that was kind of the first to cut against that a little bit,” Judge said. “You saw that in music too. When I first saw NWA, before that we had MC Hammer, flashy shiny stuff. All of a sudden there’s guys just wearing black shirts and a baseball cap.”
Are we back in the ‘90s again?
A lot of shows from the ‘90s have come back recently. Before Beavis and Butt-Head, Will & Grace, Full House, The X-Files and Roseanne had successful revivals. Shows like Murphy Brown, Saved By the Bell and Punky Brewster attempted to join the fun. Cobra Kai brought back the ‘80s Karate Kid movies as a streaming series. There were two whole decades since the ‘90s for television to get fluffy again. So perhaps it’s Beavis and Butt-Head’s time to stick it to the airwaves again.
“That’s my armchair theory is that some of it might’ve been a reaction,” Judge said. “The pendulum always seems to swing and it was swinging back from whatever the ‘80s had been.”